This Father’s Day, a group of LGBT and straight-ally families will spend their holiday in a way that is both extraordinary and profoundly commonplace: they will attend services at Saddleback Church, the mega-church founded by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.
The following day, the families will join leaders from Saddleback Church for a private meal and conversation.
The visit is the conclusion of a six-week journey, a gay-friendly family road trip, to initiate dialogue with mega-church congregations across the nation. In December 2007, organizers of the project – which is called The American Family Outing – invited the leaders of six major mega-churches to match families from their congregations with LGBT families for a meal and conversation. Then, on Mother’s Day 2008, the outing began with a visit to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.
As of June 16, 2008, The American Family Outing will have met successfully with all six of the churches. The meetings have ranged in size and depth; Lakewood Church welcomed the families to worship but would only meet privately with one of the Family Outing’s clergy leaders, Pastor Jay Bakker. In contrast, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia met personally with LGBT families from Atlanta and around the country.
“The meetings have been an occasion to clear up misperceptions on both sides and to begin to focus on what we have in common,” says Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce and one of the organizers of the American Family Outing.
Lutes and his partner, Gary Stein, along with their three kids, will be participating in the visit with Saddleback Church. Members of the Lutes-Stein family have also visited Lakewood Church and The Potter’s House in Dallas. They will also join families visiting Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois on June 8.
“It’s not your average summer vacation,” says Lutes. “But it has been an amazing experience. In the end, we’re doing it to make a safer world for our kids, so it’s all worth it.”
Clergy leader Jay Bakker will also join the families for the visit with Saddleback.
The American Family Outing is a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.
Article adapted by ProudParenting.com from original press release.